Sunday, December 29, 2019

Rainbow Canyon Loop - 12/28/19

Rainbow Canyon

Saddle Overlook

Interesting Formation

Dropping down Dry Fall in First Wash
Brrr! It was a chilly morning with a slight north breeze. But ... nineteen hikers showed up for the popular hike called Rainbow Canyon Loop. Everyone was dressed with several layers and we were ready! This loop hike begins at mile marker 15 of Northshore Road in the Lake Mead NRA. It is in a very colorful area of the park. The trailhead is situated between Rainbow Ridge to the north and Ejection Seat Ridge to the south on their east ends. It should also be noted that there is only room for six cars, at the most, in this turnout. We had five cars this morning after consolidating as much as we could. Good team work! We dropped down into the wash on the east end of the trailhead.

Climbing out of Wash
After hiking up the wash for only about 1/3 mile, we climbed out and crossed the road to drop into the wash on the other side and turn right. (Today, we had to do some creative avoidance of some red mud in the bottom of the wash!)

Lovell Wash
During one of our detours, we saw the skull, hipbone (?) of a bighorn. Most likely, it was the only thing that remained of a very large old male bighorn carcass that we saw last year in the wash. We also found a 6" segment of its vertebrae.

Rainbow Canyon

Hiking Rainbow Canyon
Just before we hiked into a wall and culvert, we turned left into a sloped escape wash. This put us up onto a flat mesa between deep washes. There are three fairly good places to drop into the deep wash in the 2:00 direction. Then this wash gently dropped us into the wide Lovell Wash. We turned left and hiked up the wash for another 1/3 mile and came to the entrance of Rainbow Canyon. The colorful junction will clue you in! We turned left into the canyon and enjoyed a walk up through the gentle canyon full of oranges, reds and yellows. About .15 mile into the canyon, we could have visited the old mine site up to the right of the wash but, we were so enthralled in conversation, we missed it! 😁

Rainbow Canyon
There is always next time! Anyway, the hike up the wash parallels Rainbow Ridge to the left. On this ridge, we saw the large flat arch at the top (see last photo) and many mine holes in the sides. At one point, we also saw where there are some old roads that zigzag up that way.

Charlie in Rainbow Canyon
In December of 2013, Chuck H. took a brave group of hikers up to traverse Rainbow Ridge from east end to west end. Besides the arch, there is a short razor-edge on the ridge. Our descent took us down a great canyon wash behind one of those triangle formations seen on the south side. The only really tough part was the steep slippery descent from the peak to the wash. (See the blog.)

Connecting with the Old Mine Road

Mine Claim
When we came to the junction of an old mine road that met the wash at a point on the right, we started up. The road was easy to follow until we came to deep eroded cuts that we had to bypass on the right. I fear that, someday, these cuts will separate and the road will fall into the now deep wash to the left. From here, we continued up to the high point on the road where there is a mining claim built nearby. We started our descent down the road on the other side and it became obvious that the road had been even more washed out than last year. We passed the old mine camp covered with rusted cans and saw rocks everywhere! This continued until we junctioned with a still-used mine road and turned left.

Dropping down on another Mine Road
About .20 mile from this junction, we turned left down another road that only very high clearance vehicles still attempt to drive. This small canyon has color of its own and after another 1/4 mile we found our escape wash to the left. A misshapen cairn hides in the bushes here!

Bottleneck in the Escape Wash
We knew we were in the correct wash when we came to the high yellow step-up! This becomes somewhat of a bottleneck in large groups! The wash then leads gently up where we further escape to the right.

Escape Wash from Top

Snack Break after Scramble - Low "V" in Distance
From this point, we hiked across the plateau in two groups. Those hikers that wished a little harder scramble headed toward a black crack seen across the desert and the others head to the low saddle near it. By the time the saddle hikers reached the other side, the scramblers were beginning to deal with a fun dry fall drop. We all watched them as each one enjoyed their scramble and tried to avoid the velcro plant at the bottom! Finding a place out of the worst wind, we had our break. Then, we headed toward the low "V" in the distance. Reaching the "V," we found a trail that leads to the left of the wash. Follow the trail around, then it is advised to drop down into the main wash just after the slab crossing.

The Scramble
Circle around the little hill to the left and start up the first wash on the left. This is a small wash surrounded by cryptobiotic soil. Please avoid this living soil and all the cryptobiotic soil in the walls of the descent wash coming up next!

Wash to Saddle
Follow the small wash all the way up to a small knoll where there is a fantastic view! See the second photo of this entry. The soil here is okay to walk on!

Climbing up Wash to Saddle

Narrow Descent Wash
Next, go back to the small wash you came up and start dropping over the crest on a very small wash. Here, there is a baby bear paw poppy in the middle of the wash. Please avoid disturbing this beautiful plant. Staying in the middle of the wash, start your descent between narrow living walls. There are no surprises (i.e. dry falls) and the views are around every corner. Don't forget to look back up at Rainbow Ridge when you get a chance. The wash curves here and there and eventually veers left into the main wash that runs parallel to Northshore Road ahead. This is another interesting wash with a lot of photo opportunities. Finally, we came to the culvert that runs under the road and hiked through.

Narrow Descent Wash
Be careful of the disintegrating metal at the end of the tunnel! Now, we were in a familiar bright red wash. Another 1/4 mile down this wash, we turned left into a large wash junction.

Descent and Main Wash to Culvert
With approximately one mile left to enjoy, we started up the main wash that roughly parallels the road ... this time on the south side.

Descending Main Wash

Main Wash
There are three trailhead turnouts along this mile and the exit points up to the road are numerous. We passed the MM 14.5 trailhead then exited up to the road too soon ... again. We ended up hiking the road for around 1/4 mile before we reached our cars. But, everyone was happy and enjoyed the hike very much. Nevermind a little pavement, huh? This was a very nice hike and a very nice group of hikers. We all stayed warm and fended off the breezes gallantly!

6.2 miles; 900 feet elevation gain; 3.5 hours; average moving speed 1.7 mph

Disintegrating Culvert under Northshore Road

Colorful Wash Junction to Trailhead

Nineteen Hikers Last at Wash Junction

Close-Up of Arch on Rainbow Ridge (2013)

Friday, December 27, 2019

Railroad Pass Mountain Loop - 12/27/19

White Christmas in Las Vegas

Colorful Terrain approaching High Point

Who 'Dat?

Climbing up to the Loop Trail
An informational sign at the trailhead reads:

"When the Bureau of Reclamation built Boulder City, it declared this federal town would be free of gambling, liquor and prostitution. But the government didn't control the 20-acre parcel of land outside the government boundary. On this parcel, less than a mile outside federal lands, Los Angeles entrepreneur P.J. Warren built a casino at the crossroads of the dam site, Las Vegas, and the rich mining districts along the Colorado River.

Built in 1931, the Railroad Pass Casino was a popular destination for residents and travelers. Even before the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, bootleg liquor was served while gamblers played roulette, craps and blackjack. The casino was also famous for its live music and dancing."

East Arc of Loop
"The casino played a vital role in developing the community. The owners helped raise money for a much-needed school for local children, and cashed dam workers' paychecks or secured their money in a safe."

Fifteen Hikers
"The business has continued to flourish and today, Railroad Pass Casino and Hotel prides itself as being the longest continuously operating gaming establishment in Southern Nevada."

Highland Range - Bighorn Habitat to South

Northeast Arc of Loop
The trailhead is located behind the newly built truck stop at the Railroad Pass Casino and Hotel. The truck stop hasn't been open a year and already, business is booming! Fifteen hikers gathered at the trailhead parking lot to hike the loop trail that travels around the small mountains rising up behind the casino. Knowing how old the casino is, I wonder how old the trail is. I do know that I first took the club around the loop in February of 2013. The hike became a staple of the club until they began building the truck stop. This stopped easy access to the route for a couple of years. Now that the dust has settled, ...
"We're ba-ack!"

Cascata Golf Clubhouse
Getting up to the loop trail was similar as before. We hiked up the trail ramp and found a use trail up through the dirt and rocks. Next, we had to cross the railroad tracks (only used for tourist train purposes) and continued on the old trail that snakes up to the loop trail.

The Group Gathers with the Highland Range in the Distance
We turned right on the loop and began the familiar route. It appears that the bikers have improved the trail for their purposes. It was somewhat easier to use and navigate. Behind us to the south, we saw water in the playa reflecting a snow covered range of mountains called the Highland Range. This range is a crucial bighorn habitat.

Cascata Waterfall - Not Running

Tip Toeing over Slippery Rock
The trail circled around the small blackish mountains in a counter-clockwise direction. After passing the northeast arc of the loop, we came to the Cascata Golf Course property. The golf clubhouse sits stately in the large swell of land. The driving range extends toward the mountains and our trail travels directly around its perimeter, mind you a couple hundred feet above. The golf course maintains a waterfall that pumps the water up onto a high hill where we hiked. Unfortunately, they did not have the water flowing today. In fact, we didn't see a single golfer. I guess the wet weather made it close its doors. We hiked into a cove of sorts that sits below a jug handle arch. Up on the ridge, we saw a single bighorn disappear to the other side.

The "Skinny" Part
Coming out of the "cove," we found the skinny part of the trail that has a teeny weeny bit of exposure. Since the dirt was damp, the footing seemed fairly good.

Bighorns on the Fairway
Next, we rounded the corner above the dry waterfall and the Cascata fairways came into view. A corner or two later and we came to the scene in the photo above. Nine bighorns were feasting on the green green grass of Cascata! They turned to watch us even though we were really far away from them!

Taking Photos of the Bighorns

Bighorns Circling Up
We continued our circle until we came to the saddle where the trail connects with the Mother Trail. While we hiked, the bighorns were changing their formation like a high school marching band. Well, not quite that organized! At the saddle, we stopped for a snack break finding shelter from the wind behind a few rocks. The view of Las Vegas and the snow covered Spring Mountains behind the city was extremely beautiful. We don't get this much snow very often, ... maybe once every five years or so. We had so much snow in southern Nevada in the past three days that I-15 south has been closed due to weather. Wow! The traffic is routing down past the Railroad Pass Casino to junction with SR 95 to Searchlight! What a mess!

Bighorns Below
After our break, we started down from the middle of the saddle area where there is a grouping of switchbacks. Watching the city / snow view while we descended, we crossed over to a rocky wash.

Snack Spot View - Spring Mountains & Red Rock
Down through the wash and out along the desert floor, we followed the trail while rounding the western side of the loop. The trail forked left to start gaining elevation again when we passed a couple of "locals'" homesteads.

Descent through Wash

Long Line of Hikers still Coming
Rumor has it that these "locals" even have wifi in their humble cave abodes. Our trail forked to the left one more time to climb back up to the original elevation of the loop then we found the approach trail and turned to the right. Down we went back to the cars. This was a beautiful hike! It was cold and the waterfall was off. But, the hike was fantastic nonetheless! Great folks!

4.6 miles; 900 feet elevation gain; 2.75 hours; average moving speed 1.6 mph

Colorful Rock Terrain

Hiking around the Back Side of the Loop

Crossing the Tracks before Trailhead